The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (Hardcover)
This is a book about a world in a life. Conceived in Jamaica and possibly mixed-race, Elizabeth Marsh (1735-1785) traveled farther and was more intimately affected by developments across the globe than the vast majority of men. She was the first woman to publish in English on Morocco, and the first to carry out extensive explorations in eastern and southern India. A creature of multiple frontiers, she spent time in London, Menorca, Rio de Janeiro, and the Cape of Africa. She speculated in Florida land, was caught up in the French and Indian War, linked to voyages to the Pacific, and enmeshed as victim or owner in three different systems of slavery.
She was also crucially part of far larger histories. Marsh’s experiences would have been impossible without her links to the Royal Navy, the East India Company, imperial warfare, and widening international trade. To this extent, her career illumines shifting patterns of Western power and overseas aggression. Yet the unprecedented expansion of connections across continents occurring during her lifetime also ensured that her ideas and personal relationships were shaped repeatedly by events and people beyond Europe: by runaway African slaves; Indian weavers and astronomers; Sephardi Jewish traders; and the great Moroccan sultan, Sidi Muhammad, who schemed to entrap her.
Many biographies remain constrained by a national framework, while global histories are often impersonal. By contrast, in this dazzling and original book, Linda Colley moves repeatedly and questioningly between vast geopolitical transformations and the intricate detail of individual lives. This is a global biography for our globalizing times.
About the Author
Linda Colley is Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 won the Wolfson Prize and, like Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, was a New York Times Notable Book. Colley writes regularly on history and politics for The New York Review of Books, The Nation and The Guardian. She has also lectured for Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, the European Union, the British Council, and 10 Downing Street.
Praise for The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History…
“This is a remarkable book, both for its contents and because it is a new species of biography… Linda Colley has written a full-blown economic romance with an extraordinary range… bringing all the resources of her skills as a historian and researcher to her story. It is a major achievement and an enthralling narrative.”
--Claire Tomalin, The Guardian
“A work if skewering historical precision and vast imaginative reach… Colley’s style of irreproachable clarity makes light work of the global complexities of her story. Her synthesis of the facts is masterly… Her book is both moving and profound.”
--Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books
“Colley has had to piece together fragments of information from all kinds of sources; the result is a minor miracle of biographical reconstruction… Slave revolts in Jamaica, Moroccan politics, cod-fishing in the Shetlands, Manx smuggling, the responsibilities of naval wives, the organization of the salt industry in Bengal: all this, and more, is exposed to view.”
--Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph
“A refreshing and often startling narrative that opens fresh perspectives on a revolutionary era. The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh shifted my understanding of the eighteenth-century world.”
--Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship